All the beauty that’s been lost before
Wants to find us again
U2, Ordinary Love
I observe. Sometimes I analyze.
The website for the high school reunion now lists members of the class and where they live (when known), whether they are attending the event, and also who is deceased. Nine members of my class live outside the United States: three in Canada, one each in the Netherlands Antilles, England, France, New Zealand, Panama and me in Mexico. Not what I expected.
Shocking, to me, that 65 are dead. Twelve percent. Many are names that I never thought would age, faces that would remain forever beautiful and in youth, smiles that would continue to warm my spirit – paradoxically, because they are gone, they are still young and those memories continue to warm my spirit. I watch their names, pixels jiggling on a screen, and I remain here, alive. I did not anticipate this state of affairs as my teen self had vowed to take my life in 2001 when I would be 55 years old. My teen self thought 55 a good age to die: I would have seen the millennium turn. Life got in the way of completing the pact: spouse, child, relationships and suddenly the pact was irrelevant although not forgotten. By the time the millennium turned, my thoughts had aged so that the millennium was simply a mirage, a pre-arranged construct with no meaning other than giving many computer geeks like myself a great deal of work fixing things that we could in many cases, have anticipated and avoided; it was, like the Mayan calendar of 2012, manna provided by Chicken Little.
I stare at the names of the deceased and wonder how many died as a result of breast cancer, how many died in Vietnam. My last memories of them smiling at a beach, eating a hot dog, playing cards, teasing one another. That is good, that those are the last images I have of them. I see other names that I imagine were leaders in battle, young men who would have believed in a cause, who were principled, who believed in right and wrong; then I see names of young men who might have entered a New York City subway station and emerged unwary in a jungle, as lost at that age as was I. I do not want to picture their ends, but I hope their deaths were dignified, as in those days they would not have received a dignified return home and – had they needed the help of the government they served – they would have been treated as shabbily as governments throughout the ages have miserly mistreated those who have given them the most.
As I see attendees added on a daily basis, I wait for the moment when I’ll say, “oh, yes, now I’m excited about going.” But there haven’t been any.
I am not the type of person who talks about the good old days. Sentences that begin “Do you remember when…” absent themselves from my conversation. So, if I were to go, what would there be to say? and to whom?
Ten members of the class live in the San Francisco Bay Area and one of those may have followed a path similar to my own. I wonder about her, whether her internal life mirrored my own. We were not friends and I remember not having friends in common, yet she lived very near me at two different times in our lives. In that list of names she has both her current and former names, while I simply use my current name. Serendipitously, our names now appear one after the other in the list of classmates. I’ve written via email to two people in the Bay Area to see if they are going to the reunion and, if not, if they would like to have a “reunion West.” I’ve not heard from either.
Of the 471 names who are not deceased, the whereabouts of 54 are still unknown. More than one-third still live in Connecticut and 67 continue to live in my hometown while another 22 live in towns adjacent. The combination of only a few living in foreign lands and so many still in the ‘hood surprises me. I thought us more venturesome. That so few have achieved public notoriety or fame is also surprising. A few have achieved a quiet sort of fame as they have accumulated many patents or are well known within an esoteric field of work. Some lead lives of comfort with their horses and their sailboats.
This could be a busy weekend as my 97-year old friend is having a book signing party, L has invited me and the girl gang to dinner, and Pro Musica ends its season with its annual Garden Party, which this year features a local tenor and a soprano singing Broadway tunes, which is how the song below ended up as the song of the day. The intermission includes champagne and canapes. The event is over-priced, I can’t say that it’s for a good cause, yet I missed it last year and feel like I’m a moth and its my flame – much like the new dress I anticipate buying for that reunion. Last year I sought events like this to attend; this year I’ve been to none.